Artist UNKNOWN, Shell necklace Enlarge 1 /1


Tasmanian Aboriginal people

Australia unknown – unknown

Shell necklace c.1920 Description: AM 243/02
Place made: Bruny Island?, Tasmania, Australia
Materials & Technique: jewellery, mauve maireener shells, thread

Dimensions: circumference 100.0 h cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2003
Accession No: NGA 2003.17

Three of these historic works comprise solely maireener shells, in different sizes and colours, the most pure form of the tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal shell necklace-making. The fourth historic work is distinctive for its omission of maireeners and the use of numerous delicate rye shells punctuated by black crow shells.

A late 19th-century photograph of renowned Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Trugannini — popularly and racially defined as ‘the last full-blood Tasmanian Aborigine’ — portrays her anguished yet dignified face, a maireener shell necklace wound round and round her neck.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra